I’m joined again this week by special guest Paulina DuPain, a designer at Affordable Interior Design by Uploft. She has been on previous podcast episodes before, and I knew her insight on the business side of interior design would be helpful in answering some more of your questions this week for part 2 of this series on the Business of Interior Design.
Last week, we talked about the rewards and challenges of the interior design industry, setting boundaries with clients, and so much more. Be sure to listen to that episode before diving into this week’s episode with more questions from the mailbag about the business side of interior design.
This episode, we discuss…
[2:15] Creating an apartment space that feels distinct yet cohesive (Francis)
When designing for a whole apartment, What tips would you have to make sure all of the rooms are distinct enough yet still cohesive?
First, it’s a great idea that the whole apartment has the same aesthetic. I don’t design different rooms of the house in two different styles like mid-century modern in the bedroom and traditional in the living room. It makes the whole space feel disconnected. You need to commit to a style and make sure that all of your rooms float together nicely.
One thing that I do is repeat colors throughout the whole space. If I use specific colors in the living room, I might bring a little of that color into the family room that’s adjusted to the living room. You can have a completely different color palette, but you can bring a little bit of that yellow from the living room and marry the two spaces together. Colors are usually how I work with rooms and have them flow together in the same style.
What’s funny is that even though I have worked with Paulina at the same firm for years, and we both have long backgrounds as different artists, I have a different philosophy.
I believe the rooms can be different styles as long as they don’t open into each other. If I were to mention the same spaces that Paulina used previously, these adjacent rooms that open into each other like the living room, dining room, and family room, if these rooms can clearly be seen from the other rooms, then I do agree that there should be a shared style. If these rooms have doors to close them off, I would say you can do a different style you’ve always wanted to try. I did this with my house, actually. After we moved in six years ago, I considered myself mid-century modern mixed with a comfortable aesthetic. I summed myself up in the two-word phrase that I like to use, but in my bedroom, I wanted traditional, which is so not me. I wanted something that felt more feminine and serene and didn’t have color pops. I wanted curved soft edges and a vintage Persian rug. I just wanted to go in a different direction and express another side of myself. So with this area being so far away from those open living, dining, and family spaces, I felt I could do that. I do think rooms with indoor rooms that are separated don’t have to share the same styles and be cohesive. This might be controversial, but I like to design in many different styles.
So I do agree and disagree with Paulina here. If you want that cohesive look and are worried as a designer that the looks you create won’t be cohesive, it is easier to commit to one style. You’ll also have an easier time selling your client on one style. Very few clients want a space to be radically different style-wise in the bedroom, the living room, or the basement. Typically, they like a similar style. However, they may want a different feeling word. If you want one room to be playful and energetic, while the living room is a TV lounge, you can make it cohesive with the color palette and style.
[7:01] How to deal with clients that are upset with item sourcing issues (Chan)
How do you deal with when a client becomes upset because the Items you sourced for them are out of stock or are not quite what they expected?
If items are out of stock, you can always source a new one. It can be very tricky, though, because if the piece is something you centered the whole style around and it becomes unavailable, it will be tough to get something almost identical to that piece. But, on the other hand, if it is just an accent piece, you can always source a couple of new options similar to the original piece.
If the client doesn’t like the piece because it wasn’t what they expected, then it is best to discuss their expectations with them. A good idea is to have this kind of conversation towards the beginning of working together. Figure out what your client doesn’t like about the item and maybe go source a new one together, or you could show them some options that would align with their expectations. Always remember to work with your client and find things together that suits them.
You can collaborate and look together, or you could say, why don’t you show me a couple of things that align with your style? Tell them not to worry about the budget or availability because you will find something similar. If you don’t understand the style your client is going for, have them show you in a timely manner as they pay you to search. You aren’t asking them to find the end all, be all – you are asking for further clarification on what they mean.
When an item is out of stock, it can be rather disheartening. But, on the other hand, it can also be an opportunity to find something even better. But the problem with that is that you found the piece you love so much, and you’ve advocated for it with your client, and now they love it too. So you will come across this as an interior designer as it is one of the industry’s challenges.
[12:07] Pushing the paint color boundary with clients and what colors to stay away from (Jim)
When designing for clients, I love to push the color boundary. I often find the best way to do this is by adding a bright paint in the room. Knowing that I love to go a bit far with color, are there any colors of paint you would stay away from? Is it different depending on the room?
I avoid red because it is an intense color for me. Fun fact about me, I have a slight aversion to red. I do not use red as an interior color unless you ask me. I love red lipstick and could go for red nails, but I don’t use it in interiors. This aversion or phobia is called erythrophobia. Also, chromophobia may refer to an aversion to using color in products or designs. I’m not going to get into it right now.
It’s a very strong color in general. So colors have a color theory for a reason. Colors will project different emotions, and red is associated not only with love and passion but with alertness. So it’s a very strong color to use on the wall. An accent piece is acceptable as a nice pop to energize the room, but it could be overwhelming. So if you’re anxious, it will make you more nervous. If you have very hyper children, they will be even more hyper in that room. It depends on your lifestyle.
I would also avoid green. There are many shades of green. The sage green would look lovely in a specific space like a kitchen, but it may not be a good idea for a bedroom. If you have read Betsy’s book, she shares the same opinion on the green with me. It can make you look washed out, especially in your bedroom. Other than that, a brown or black would be hard. Those two would be hard to use because they aren’t fun pops of color to use.
It was so funny, I was tucking in my daughter for bed one night, and I was trying to get her jazzed on leaving everything she is known by helping me pick out paint colors for the new house. A paint fan is so fun to look at as a kid, right?
So she pretends to be the designer, and I pretend to be the client. She tells me the suitable colors, and I tell her what I like. As I’m talking to her about these paint colors, I find myself not drawn to the ones that are too dark. I could like almost any color in its pale form. I could even enjoy a red if it’s a blush. That’s its pale form. So even the most intense colors like black dominate how you feel in a space. That can be fun when you want to feel moody and immersed in a book with a cigar. I’m just trying to imagine why you would like a chocolate brown room. I smoked one cigar in my life and did not enjoy it, but that’s what I think I would do, but it would dominate my feelings.
One thing I discovered, even though this isn’t exclusively while painting, is when I moved into my current house, it had this clear stained glass that was red, yellow, and green. Those are not colors I tend to prefer. However, the stained glass was so prominent. When you flip a switch, it lights up and fills the whole room with color. I thought I could ignore it, but because it was so gorgeous, I designed the two adjacent rooms – the living room and dining room – in yellow, red, and green. My family and I had a hard time relaxing in this space until it occurred to me that a conversation with a fellow designer about a different conversation with a paint consultant from Benjamin Moore and the light bulb went off for me. The colors are impacting how I feel in the rooms.
The problem with the paint, Jim, is that you don’t want to repaint for seven to ten years. Not only do you have to live with the decision as a designer, but you also want your clients to know that they will want to live with it for at least that long. Paint can be expensive to replace when it comes to labor, and the can of paint is $60 a piece. So when I want to make an interesting statement, I’ll do so with art, drapes, a rug, or pillows because it is something I can change out on my own versus something I have to call a whole crew in to fix. I tend to stay with the lighter shades because I can change my personality. I can change how I want to feel in this room if the tone is light. If the tone is dark, that room is going to dominate me.
[19:51] Day-to-day life as an interior designer and typical schedule (Rachel)
What does day-to-day life look like as a designer? How many hours do you work? What types of tasks do you do? I’m trying to decide if the industry is for me.
So for the types of tasks, it will all depend on the kinds of interiors you are doing and where you work. If you are an in-store designer, your day-to-day will look different than the day-to-day of an independent contractor. I can only speak for myself, so right now, my day-to-day is that I work full time with flexible hours. That’s the most cherished part of my job. Whatever I don’t finish during the day for a project, I finish it up at night. It’s a 40-plus-hour week for me, but I set my own hours. If you work for a retail store or a big company, you’ll probably work nine to five and then have little homework. So it just depends on where you are.
When working for an architecture firm, every day was filled with different projects happening simultaneously, with at least four or five that everybody is working on. There are a lot of meetings, given that you are in a very collaborative industry. Working for large companies, you get to bounce off of each other’s ideas, which is an enjoyable part of working for even a smaller firm. You basically come up with all sorts of fun ideas throughout the day while collaborating with an architect and structural engineer. Those people can make sure that all this stuff you are picking out will make sense in the space. Of course, you’re not the only person making the decisions, but with projects, you’re working on multiple simultaneously. This process takes a bit longer because you’re going through the whole process.
With your current workflow, Paulina, at Affordable Interior Design by Uploft, our projects take two weeks. The exciting thing is that you manage your own project. As a designer, there’s tons of creativity. You work quickly because once you meet the client, you have that presentation ready for them two weeks later. However, there isn’t that collaboration. We kind of work somewhat in isolation because we have to work so quickly. Working remotely it’s part of the beauty of flexibility, but think about that also, Rachel, as you’re opening your own thing. You may find that you want community and can join Facebook groups.
So when you’re running your own business or working on your projects independently, you may find that you want to reach out, and there are those resources. I think what Paulina said early on about flexibility is the right way to look at things. If you’re an in-store designer for West Elm, or Paulina was a designer at a stone source company, you’re not able to say, let’s use stone from another company. You need to sell your company’s products to maximize your commission. There are creative restrictions. You can’t just choose from anything in the whole world. You must promote the products you’re working on and stand behind them.
These are all things you want to consider when trying to decide what part of the industry is right for you and where you fit in. You definitely want to check out our academy, Uploft Interior Design Academy, because, in the very first module, we take a deep dive into the different types of designers and what the pros and cons are.
Empower yourself if you choose to go your own way. Know that it’s going to be a lot more work, and you’ll have a heavy learning curve of running a successful business, marketing a business, creating invoices, and creating that backend structure. Still, you will have a lot of freedom to make the call that you don’t get in other atmospheres. So keep thinking, Rachel, keep investigating and write us if you have more questions.
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